2 March 2021

Building in your back garden

If you have a garden big enough for another building, you may be thinking about a self-build project or dividing the plot so you can sell it. Maybe you are considering constructing a home office or a small property for other family members. Whatever your reasons, there are various factors to consider first.

Physical constraints of your garden plot

If you are looking to build another residential property, your garden must be able to accommodate a new home comfortably and have good physical access. There should also be no legal obstacles to access.

Access to services, such as electricity and water, is also important. Ideally, you should be able to connect to the existing mains supply. Although there is usually a way of bringing services in, even to remote properties. If you need to run cables or pipes across neighbouring land, you will need to ensure the necessary legal agreements are in place.

Getting planning permission for your new build

A residential dwelling will require planning permission. In deciding whether to grant permission your local authority will consider national planning guidance, its own policies and your plans for the building. There may be legal restrictions in your title which prevent building, or which require a third party’s consent to any works.

Permitted Development Rights – when you don’t need planning permission

You can construct some buildings, known as ‘incidental’ buildings, such as a garden shed, office space or a summer house without planning permission. Although it is not always straightforward, and the construction must adhere to certain guidelines.

There are two key factors to consider: the dimensions of the building and how you are going to use it. A garden office or glammed up shed used for leisure or occasional homeworking may be considered as ‘incidental’ and may not need planning permission. Whereas a garden office used for business five days a week with a plumbed-in toilet may not be viewed as ‘incidental’ by your local authority and they may want a planning application for it.

An ‘incidental’ building should be used for purposes outside the house, but which cannot exist without it, such as storage, a gym, or activities classed as a hobby.

Sell to a developer or self-build?

You can, of course, sell your plot to a developer without planning permission. This may not be so profitable but could release value more quickly and with less financial risk to yourself.
If you plan on staying in your current home, consider how you would feel living next door to a building site over which you have little control. You could seek some safeguards in your agreement with the developer, but it may mean compromising elsewhere.

You will have much more control if you develop the plot yourself. However, you will also have the challenge of running a building project. One possible solution is a turnkey design and build contract. In this arrangement a single company delivers a build to your specification.

Take specialist advice and plan ahead

If you decide to sell off part of your garden, you will need to ensure the two plots have any necessary rights over each other, which could include the right to run services, parking and a right of way. If you are staying in your home, you may also want to limit further development or other activities on the land you are selling. You can usually do this by including a restrictive covenant in the transfer.

If you want to talk to a solicitor about building in your back garden, contact Hayes + Storr on 01328 863231 or email law@hayes-storr.com.

By Alex Findlay, Director, Hayes + Storr.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.